Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Monophysitism, Montanism, and Historic Roman and Papal Opposition to Heresy (vs. Eric Phillips)

Eric Phillips is a Lutheran. His words will be in blue.

* * * * *

It would be more accurate to say that Rome stood on the sidelines, as a mostly disinterested Latin onlooker while the Greek churches hammered out the details of orthodox Christology. Rome might not have promoted any of the big early heresies, but it didn't defeat any of them either. It just didn't get involved much at all.

I cited a survey of various heresies and the Roman response to them, from a paper of mine.

"The East" is a darn big place compared to Rome. Why not compare East to West, or maybe Rome to one of the big Eastern sees?

Probably because the East as a whole had a tendency of setting itself against Rome, as seen in the later schism. But since your point was that Rome " didn't defeat any [heresies] either. It just didn't get involved much at all," I centred my answer on Rome. It was from another paper, anyway, where my point was to respond to the claims of certain anti-Catholic sorts of Orthodox, that Rome is not apostolic, or has lost grace and sacraments, etc. Therefore, I was writing about Rome's role in opposition to heresy.

Montanism was an apocalyptic sect which denied the divinely-
established nature of the Church. Montanus, who began prophesying in 172, came from central Turkey (which became the heresy's center of operations). Opposition to Montanism was spearheaded by Pope Eleutherus (175-89), and it was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (199-217).
Who says Eleutherus "spearheaded" it? Bishops all over the place, East and West, opposed Montanism. It's only your Roman bias that makes you consider the popes to be "spearheads" as opposed to other important bishops.

I see. Well, then my "Roman bias" which is the "only" reason I stated this, according to you, pervades Protestant and secular reference sources, where I obtained this information in the first place (which is fine with me: I think more "Roman bias" would be a wonderful thing!). The Encyclopaedia Britannica, not particularly known as a "Catholic" or "Roman" publication (1985 ed., Micropaedia, vol. 4, "Eleutherius," p. 443), notes:

. . . pope from c. 175 to 189. During his pontificate the church was involved in a controversy over Montanism . . . Eleutherius had been devoting close attention to the Montanist controversy when in 177 Christians in the Lyon area wrote him expressing their opinion of the teachings of the prophet Montanus. Although the letter has been lost, it is believed to have asked Eleutherius to show mercy but not to compromise with followers of the movement. The churches of Lyon and Vienne, Fr., sent the letter by Bishop St. Irenaeus of Lyon, who was delegated to advise Eleutherius on the question. The opposition of Eleutherius to Montanism has been noted, but the nature of his mediation in the dispute is not known.
Protestant historian Philip Schaff, also, to my knowledge, a person who has never been accused of "Roman bias," writes:
The Gallic Christians . . . took a conciliatory posture . . . They sent their presbyter (afterwards bishop) Irenaeus to Eleutherius in Rome to intercede in their behalf. This mission seems to have induced him or his successor to issue letters of peace, but they were soon afterwards recalled. This sealed the fate of the party.

(History of the Christian Church, vol. II: Ante-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 100-325, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970 [orig. 1910], 419-420)

Lastly, another thoroughly Protestant work,The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (ed. J.D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, rev. ed., 1974, "Montanism," p. 674):
Opposition to the movement was initiated by Pope Eleutherius and taken up by writers such as Miltiades and Apollinarius.
I'm sure you will immediately resolve to send a letter of protest to Zondervan and J.D. Douglas, denouncing the obvious "Roman bias" which causes such outrageously subjective opinions to be expressed in such an important reference work! One can never be too careful in selecting scholarly works which manage to avoid the horrific "Roman bias" with which papers by the likes of Catholic apologists such as myself, are suffused. But if I can no longer consult Protestant works in my research, where can I go? To (obviously non-biased) Orthodox sources, perhaps?
Later christological heresies emanating from this school (such as Apollinarianism, Eutychianism, and Monophysitism) were influenced by Docetism.
Why are you distinguishing between Eutychianism and Monophysitism? The only kind of Monophysitism that is heretical is Eutychianism. Anti-Eutychian Monophysitism is just schismatic.

According to whom? Not the Council of Chalcedon, which condemned Monophysitism. For background on this heresy, I turn again to Schaff:

Its [Chalcedon's] opponents, it is true, rejected the Eutychian theory of an absorption of the human nature into the divine, but nevertheless held firmly to the doctrine of one nature in Christ . . . They conceded, indeed, a composite nature . . . but not two natures. They assumed a diversity of qualities without corresponding substances, and made the humanity of Christ a mere accident of the immutable divine substance.

Their main argument against Chalcedon was, that the doctrine of two natures necessarily led to that of two persons, or subjects, and thereby severed the one Christ into two Sons of God. They were entirely at one with the Nestorians in their use of the terms 'nature' and 'person,' and in rejecting the orthodox distinction between the two. They could not conceive of human nature without personality. From this the Nestorians reasoned that, because in Christ there are two natures, there must be also two independent hypostases; the monophysites, that because there is but one person in Christ, there can be only one nature . . .

Thus from the council of Chalcedon started those violent and complicated Monophysite controversies which convulsed the Oriental church, from patriarchs and emperors down to monks and peasants, for more than a hundred years, and which have left their mark even to our day. They brought theology little appreciable gain, and piety much harm; and they present a gloomy picture of the corruption of the church. The intense concern for practical religion, which animated Athanasius and the Nicene fathers, abated or went astray; theological speculation sank towards barren metaphysical refinements; and party watchwords and empty formulas were valued more than real truth . . .

Immediately after the council of Chalcedon bloody fights of the monks and the rabble broke out, and Monophysite factions went off in schismatic churches . . . After thirty years' confusion the Monophysites gained a temporary victory under the protection of the rude pretender to the empire, Basiliscus (475-477), who in an encyclical letter, enjoined on all bishops to condemn the council of Chalcedon (476). After his fall, Aeno (474-475 and 477-491), by advice of the patriarch Acacius of Constantinople, issued the famous formula of concord, the Henoticon, which proposed, by avoiding disputed expressions, and condemning both Eutychianism and Nestorianism alike, to reconcile the monophysite and dyophysite views, and tacitly set aside the Chalcedonian formula (482) . . . Felix II, bishop of Rome, immediately rejected the Henoticon, and renounced communion with the East (484-519). The strict Monophysites were as ill content with the Henoticon, as the adherents of the council of Chalcedon; and while the former revolted from their patriarchs . . . the latter attached themselves to Rome. It was not till the reign of the emperor Justin I (518-527), that the authority of the council of Chalcedon was established under stress of a popular tumult, and peace with Rome was restored. The Monophysite bishops were now deposed, and fled for the most part to Alexandria, where their party was too powerful to be attacked.

(History of the Christian Church, vol. III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974 [orig. 1910], 762-765)

Likewise, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (ed. J.D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, rev. ed., 1974, "Monophysitism," p. 672-673):
This reaction to orthodoxy which seems to suddenly emerge after Chalcedon in reality goes back to previous aspects of Christian history. Part of its roots can be traced to Christian monasticism as practiced in the Syro-Palestinian region and in Egypt. The monks were in constant battle against their human weakness and sinfulness . . . For Christ to have a similar human nature as their own would be unthinkable to the Eastern monk . . . Monophysitism was extremely popular among the laity of the Eastern churches. This mob popularity often found expression in many outbursts of violence such as in Alexandria, Antioch, and other church centers in the Middle East.
And The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, ed. F.L. Cross & E.A. Livingstone, Oxford Univ. Press, 1974, "Monophysitism," 931-932):
The doctrine that in the Person of the Incarnate Christ there was but a single, and that a Divine, Nature, as against the orthodox teaching of a double Nature, Divine and Human, after the Incarnation. Its adherents came into being as a distinct body immediately after the Council of Chalcedon (451), which formally defined the Dyophysite doctrine . . . An extreme form of it was condemned in the person of Eutyches (d. 454) at the Council of Chalcedon, to which the Monophysites always remained implacably opposed.
Now, Eric: either Chalcedon is orthodox or it is not. If you agree that it is, then you must agree that Monophysitism is heresy. This is the standard view of the subject. If you wish to say that only Eutychianism was opposed, then why is it that "the Monophysites always remained implacably opposed" to Chalcedon, if the latter was only renouncing an extreme of their position which they would themselves renounce?

You need to distinguish between verbal monophysites from the tradition of Severus of Antioch, and real Eutychians. The majority of those known to history as "Monophysites" did not teach one physis of Christ in which the divine swallowed up the human, or "the flesh of Christ came down from heaven," but rather one divino-human physis resulting from the Incarnation. The majority tradition of the Monophysites anathematized Eutyches. The Monophysite formula, "one hypostasis from two natures" is indeed inferior to the Chalcedonian formula "one hypostasis in two natures." It's not as clean and accurate a description, and is more liable to Eutychian distortion (though to be fair, it's less liable to
Nestorian distortion). But we need to distinguish between truly heterodox statements, and statements with orthodox intention but imperfect wording.

The Orthodox Church is also Chalcedonian, and it regards Monophysitism as heresy:

Heretical majorities -- Arian, Monophysite, iconoclastic -- sometimes succeeded in imposing themselves on "false councils" . . .

The Orthodox regard the period of the ecumenical councils as a normative period. It was then, by and large, that the dogmatic and canonical norms of the Orthodox faith were laid down, as we know them today . . . The Orthodox Church acknowledges seven ecumenical councils [up through 2nd Nicaea in 787]:

. . . 4. The Council of Chalcedon (451), which, while confirming the existence in Christ of a single Person, condemned the monophysites, because the latter refused to distinguish between the concepts of person ('hypostasis') and Nature ('physis') . . . The council affirmed that the son of God must be confessed in two natures . . . Many of the non-Greek elements in the Empire (Copts, Ethiopians, Syro-Jacobites, Armenians left the Orthodox Church at this time and formed schismatic Monophysite churches.

(John Meyendorff, The Orthodox Church, 4th rev. ed., revised by Nicholas Lassky, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1996, 24, 27-28)

As for the relationship of Eutychianism and Monophysitism, the (obviously severely-biased with that "Roman" outlook) Catholic Encyclopedia of 1910 ("Eutychianism," vol. 5, 633, written by the great Catholic scholar and Church historian, John Chapman) states:
Eutychianism and Monophysitism are usually identified as a single heresy. But as some Monophysites condemned Eutyches, the name 'Eutychian' is given by some writers to only the more extreme of these sectaries, or even only to those in Armenia. It seems best to use the words indifferently, as no party of the sect looked to Eutyches as a founder or a leader, and Eutychian is but a nickname for all those who, like Eutyches, rejected the orthodox expression 'two natures' of Christ. The tenet 'one nature' was common to all Monophysites and Eutychians, and they affected to call Catholics Diphysites or Dyophysites.
The Chapman article in the Catholic Encyclopedia contradicts itself when it says, "Euychianism and Monophysitism are usually identified as a single heresy. But as some Monophysites condemned Eutyches, the name 'Eutychian' is given by some writers to only the more extreme of these sectaries, or even only to those in Armenia. It seems best to use the words indifferently, as no party of the sect looked to Eutyches as a founder or a leader, and Eutychian is but a nickname for all those who, like Eutyches, rejected the orthodox expression 'two natures' of
Christ." If some Monophysites (and these were significant ones, like Timothy Aeluros, as Chapman notes elsewhere) condemned Eutyches, then Eutychianism
IPSO FACTO is NOT "but a nickname for all those who . . . rejected the orthodox expression 'two natures.'" It's embarrassing how badly Chapman contradicts
himself here.

You claim (I think) that the only kind of Monophysitism that is heretical is Eutychianism. The above sources, however, teach us that Monophysitism, period, is heretical, and that Eutychianism is simply an extreme form of it, but not essentially different. You try to separate the two, but the Catholic Encyclopedia does not, and the two Protestant dictionaries: Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church and The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, both send readers to "Monophysitism" in their one-line entries for "Eutychianism."

The former calls Eutyches (in the article on him), "the real founder of Monophysitism" (p. 484), while the latter refers to him in its article on him as an "early Monophysite." And The Encycopedia Britannica (1985 ed., Micropaedia, vol. 4, "Eutyches" and "Eutychian," pp. 611-612) writes of:

Eutychianism, an extreme form of the Monophysite heresy [rather than, "the heretical form of Monophysitisim"] . . . he [Eutyches] concluded that Christ's humanity was distinct from that of other men, which some scholars propose was the real formulation of Monophysitism.
This treatment by Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic scholars alike hardly suggests the distinction you try to introduce.

So what if the Popes condemned it [Modalism, or Sabellianism]? Orthodox Bishops EVERYWHERE condemned it. And they did NOT wait for the popes to act.

You denied (quite astonishingly) that Rome did much of anything at all about heresy; I showed otherwise. Now you are crowing, "so WHAT if they condemned a heresy?" Curious . . .

. . . you don't tell us when any of the Eastern sees repudiated their own local problems, only when Rome did.

Yes, my friend. It is called a "response to an opponent's claims." You make a charge about Rome; I am trying to refute it. What does that have to do with every Eastern see in the world? I was pasting from earlier material. And THAT is called "convenience."

It's not surprising that the West did better in resisting Arianism, since it was primarily a philosophical error.

Oh? But I thought Rome "didn't defeat any" heresies and "just didn't get involved much at all"?????

And anyway, Pelagianism was exclusively a Western heresy. Of course the West would be foremost in dealing with it.

Oh? But I thought Rome "didn't defeat any" heresies and "just didn't get involved much at all"?????

Monophysitism was a heresy which held that Christ had one
Divine Nature, as opposed to the orthodox and Catholic belief in two
Natures (Divine and human).
No, that's Eutychianism. The type of Monophysitism that prevailed in Egypt and Syria held that Christ had one nature that was both divine and human.

Then this type of Monophysitism is heretical, too, according to Chalcedon, as the number of natures was what was in dispute. It is heresy, not merely schism, as you claim. I got my definition from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. You may be right that their definition is a bit inaccurate, but in any event you are still incorrect in denying that Monophysitism per se is heresy, in both East and West.

Monophysitism was an advanced type of Alexandrian theology.
Bah. It was one strain of Alexandrian theology. And it was hardly advanced. It was just worried that Chalcedon's language, especially the language of Leo's Tome, conceded too much to the Nestorians.

Again, I got this notion straight from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. The fact remains that Monophysitism subsequent to Chalcedon was particularly strong in Alexandria, which is why the heretical bishops congregated there when they were deposed, as we learned above, from Philip Schaff.

Re: the historical questions, I did overstate my case when I said that Rome didn't defeat any of the major heresies. By "major heresies," I was referring to
those that required Ecumenical Councils, particularly Arianism, Nestorianism, and Eutychianism. Rome was instrumental in the defeat of a number of Western
heresies, as one would expect, seeing as it was by a good margin the most prominent see in the West.

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 13 November 2002.

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